12 Hacks to Becoming “Expert Enough” in Just Six Months

To become an expert, nothing beats years of hard-won experience, graft and subject immersion. It would be foolish to suggest otherwise. Does this mean there’s little hope for anyone who only found their calling later in life (most of us) or who want to reinvent themselves? No. There are shortcuts to becoming what Internet entrepreneur Corbett Barr calls “expert enough”: knowing enough to put your knowledge out into the world to help others.

Don’t underestimate your capacity to learn and master new skills. You might not surpass the world’s elite but nor do you need to. With determination, perseverance and intentional practice, you can become expert enough in any subject in six months.

What’s stopping you becoming an expert?

  1. Your mindset. Are you underestimating/dismissing what you know? Is it possible that you are already an expert but modesty, low-confidence or low self-esteem prevents you from acknowledging the fact?
  2. Lack of intentional practice. Intentional (aka deliberate) practice is knowing why something is done in a certain way as well as how, i.e. you understand the importance of – and focus on – mastering the underlying principles. It’s the direct opposite of parrot-learning.
  3. You lack an effective/efficient learning framework.

How to become “expert enough” in six months

  1. Apply the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 Rule (aka the Pareto Principle) states that 80% of results come from 20% of causes. For example, 80% of a company’s profits come from 20% of its customers; 80% of an app’s usefulness comes from 20% of its features; 80% of a workout’s benefit is derived from 20% of its exercises and so on. When it comes to learning anything: 80% of being an expert comes from knowing 20% of the subject matter. That is, you don’t have to know everything – you just need to know the correct 20% of the subject. (We’ve just saved you 80% of your time and effort. You’re welcome).
  2. Learn by doing. Humans learn best by doing. Seek out learning materials that teach you how to do something by having you do it. You can condense an immense amount of learning in a relatively short amount of time if you focus more on doing rather than theorizing. Seek out online projects and tutorials which you can complete. It will give you a sense of progress and nothing embeds knowledge better than hands-on experience.
  3. Intentional practice. Whenever you’re learning ask yourself, “What is the underlying principle that I need to understand?” For example, when baking a cake the underlying principle may not be the ingredients but the folding method to trap enough air into the mixture to ensure a moist, fluffy cake. When learning to use Photoshop the underlying principle may not be the individual icons in the toolbox but might be understanding how layers work.
  4. Put in the hours. We’ve established that you don’t need to put in as many hours as you first thought to become an expert. However, you do still need to put in a significant amount of time. We suggest 8am to 5pm of intentional practice, Monday to Friday for six months. (In this time, our Jake in the office went from kitchen liability to qualified cordon bleu chef catering weddings throughout the country and consulting for food startups. This isn’t just theory).
  5. The Zulu principle. Trader Jim Slater recounts a story of his wife reading a book about the Zulu tribespeople. Jim posited that just by reading one book, his wife was likely more knowledgeable about Zulus than anyone else in their building. If she read some more books and spoke to experts, she would likely be more expert than most people in the city. And by studying a college course or going to live with the Zulus, she would likely be a world expert. The lesson is: it takes less to be a leading expert than you think.
  6. Read selectively. Remember Pareto: 80% of a book’s usefulness can be found in 20% of its text. When reading non-fiction, concentrate on: the contents page; chapter titles; chapter openings; subheadings; the start and end of paragraphs; chapter summaries; bullet points, diagrams, checklists, tables; italicized text and quotations. Most of the information lives in those places.
  7. YouTube. YouTube isn’t just for cat vs dog videos, it also contains huge amounts of educational material: talks, tutorials, slideshows, programs, lectures, expert interviews. Just don’t read the comments…
  8. Watch videos at double/triple speed. We’re fans of video content as it can convey large amounts of information and complex ideas in a relatively short period of time. It’s even shorter when you playback the video at double or triple speed. YouTube has a double speed playback setting under the “gear icon” in the bottom-right of each video player. If you have the video on your computer, you can use the free VLC media player to playback at three times the speed. (You can go as high as four but that’s probably too fast). So, you can condense three times the learning in the same amount of time.
  9. Ask questions. Find a good forum in your topic and ask questions. Members of high-quality forums are very generous with their time, knowledge and skills. If you show that you are putting in the effort, i.e. don’t ask questions whose answers you can easily google yourself, you can tap into a community of experts ready and willing to help all for the asking.
  10. Subscribe to websites about your topic. Setup Google alerts and RSS feeds to stay up to date with the latest developments in your chosen topic or industry. Being aware of the latest challenges and solutions in your chosen market will boost your credibility tremendously.
  11. Build proof. The days when you needed the right pieces of paper and work experience to be seen as an expert are over. (Although, of course, there are professions that rightly demand appropriate training and qualifications to operate in). The fact is, your clients don’t care what university (if any) you went to, or the paper qualifications you have or don’t have. There are people running six-figure-plus agencies who have no relevant experience. What they do have – and all their clients care about – is proof that they can deliver the results they promise. So, go out and demonstrate your skill, capture it on camera and and put your creations out there for the world to see. Build a working prototype. Publish a book. Build a stunning portfolio. Make a documentary… When you have tangible results you can show others, you are an automatic expert. You don’t need to wait for someone to give you permission to demonstrate your expertise.
  12. Teach others. Teaching others forces you to learn more about your topic and motivates you to stay relevant and on top of your game. With teaching comes experience and confidence in your subject matter, both essential ingredients to continue growing as an expert.
Evolution of Expertise

Photo credit: darrel_rader via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Takeaway points

  1. It takes a lot less than you think to be an expert.
  2. You don’t need to wait for someone to give you permission to demonstrate your expertise. Build a portfolio, create a working prototype, have something tangible to show others. That’s your passport to being taken seriously.
  3. Forget about trying to be the world’s leading authority and concentrate on being “expert enough” to bring value to your target market. If you are giving your customers value – helping them achieve a desired outcome – you are an expert.

Action steps

  1. Practice your craft intentionally from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday for six months. Congratulations, you’re an expert whether think so or not.
  2. Create your tangible. It could be a piece of software, a book, a portfolio, a design, a prototype etc. Having a tangible to show others makes you an expert.
  3. Make a list of all the problems you can solve; all the questions you can answer; all the things you can do in your chosen topic. Still don’t think you’re an expert?

Photo credit: KarenBaijens via Foter.com / CC BY

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